Hackers steal shoppers' credit card information

Thousands of customers had their credit card details stolen after hackers broke into the computers of a leading clothing firm, it emerged last night.

Up to 38,000 were reportedly affected and their cards were immediately cancelled.

Although the method used to hack into Cotton Traders is not known, the breach raises fresh concerns over the safety of internet shopping.

The popular clothing company was founded by ex-England rugby captains Fran Cotton and Steve Smith in 1987 when they started selling rugby shirts.

It now boasts a turnover of GBP20million and has two million customers on its database.

The security breach happened in January.

The firm said that as far as it knew, none of the customers' bank or card details were used as the break-in was detected quickly. Barclaycard and other banks were informed, the cards cancelled and all customers were re-issued with new credit or debit cards.

In a statement, Cotton Traders said all of its customers' credit card data was encrypted on the website.

It said: 'Earlier this year we identified a security issue. We immediately brought in industry security experts to resolve the problem.' The firm said it had then upgraded security on the website.

'As far as we know none of our customers' details were used as the banks were aware within 24 hours,' it said. Cotton Traders refused to reveal how many customers fell victim to the hackers but said the 38,000 figure, reported by last night's Radio 4 PM show was 'wildly inaccurate'.

The breach follows last year's attack on the website of TK Maxx, in which 45million card details were lost.

In that case, data was accessed on the firm's computer systems over 16 months and covered transactions made by credit and debit cards dating as far back as December 2002.

Internet shopping has exploded in the last six years.

More than 20million Britons now shop online and the market is worth more than GBP150billion.

Most spend more than GBP500 a year on purchases.

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